"Still Life With Onions" by Alfred Sisley (1839-1899)
Where would we be without onions?
The onion is a nutritious, easily stored and adaptable vegetable that plays vital roles in a wide range of cuisines. Furthermore, onions are pretty easy to grow and succeed in lots of different growing conditions.
Where did they come from? The general consensus is they originated in central Asia from where, around 7000 years ago, they began to fan out with mankind's assistance around the known world. Onions were present in the cuisine and indeed the mythology of Ancient Egypt.
When pilgrims emigrated to North America aboard "The Mayflower" in 1620, they took seed onions and planted them by their Massachusetts cabins. Later it was discovered that some Native American cultures were already growing and using onions. How had they arrived there from central Asia? Most probably over the land bridge that once linked north eastern Russia with Alaska. After all, that is the route via which the earliest human migrations into North America happened.
When I roast a joint of meat or a chicken, I always layer the bottom of the roasting pan with chopped onions. Later they will make a perfect base for creating tasty gravy. Sometimes I boil onions or roast them whole but I think that frying is my favourite way of using onions. I fry them slowly in olive oil and butter, turning them occasionally to avoid any burning until they are brown and scrumptious. They benefit from a little seasoning during this cooking process.
The fried onions are great with steak, homemade rissoles or burgers and its nice to be generous with them. After all, onions are inexpensive.
My favourite member of the onion family is the leek but that is another story.
God bless onions! The Lord may have screwed up with unmentionable diseases and "the problem of evil" but onions remain a huge success even though they are mostly taken for granted. As I said at the start: Where would we be without onions?
As someone said: Every recipe starts with an onion. They, obviously, weren't talking about Trifle or Tiramisu. Someone else informed me, and yes, who else, one of my guests, that under no circumstances can they eat onion. OK. Whatever. One tries to be flexible where others are rigid.ReplyDelete
If I were devious which, unfortunately, I am not I'd still use one of the methods you so deftly describe in your post and just puree the lot. Thus extracting the onions taste and goodness under cover of a smooth, ooh ahhh, gravy/soup/whatever.
To summon up, YP, I am impressed. You know your onions and how to bring the best out of them (though there is one method you haven't mentioned). So, since you appear to like challenges here is one: A few days ago I came across the most amazing onions (courtesy of M&S). They are huge (as in much bigger than your average Spanish onion), £0.65 a shot. They are of creamy colour and labelled SWEET. I am so in awe of this find I just gaze at them lovingly, admiringly, wondering how best to put them to use as they appear as rare as star dust. Which only leaves one conclusion: I don't know ALL my onions.
And don't forget shallots, Lady's greetings,
I rarely frequent M&S as I am an impoverished pensioner - normally obliged to visit discount stores and jumble sales - but if I can dodge security I shall make a point of paying homage to one of the holy onions you described.Delete
All praise to the Allium family.ReplyDelete
Praise 'em! Praise 'em!Delete
Dance to Booker T and The MGs. "Green Onions".Delete
I just posted about liver and onions, one of our favourite things to eat. We love onions and leeks and eat a lot of them. They're very good for you apparently (I can't exactly remember why but something to do with anti oxidants combating your free radicals I think). I wonder where the expression "to know your onions" comes from.ReplyDelete
Mmm...Liver and onions! Lovely! Some say that the phrase "to know your onions" relates to C. T. (Charles Talbut) Onions who was an editor of the Oxford English Dictionary from 1895. Others say that the phrase emerged from rural North America where knowing the price and quality of one's crop was vital for maximising one's income.Delete
Onions and garlic - I don't think I could live without them. Well, obviously I could but food would taste very dull.ReplyDelete
This pandemic is bad enough but take away onions and garlic and we would be hurling ourselves from cliffs like lemmings.Delete
Ah, Alfred Sisley ! Painter of Sea, Skies, Snow, Spring ... and Onions?ReplyDelete
*Shurely shome mistake?* as Lord Gnome said after quatre or cinque glasses of Calvados, in the French pub in Soho.
Painting onions seems like Cezanne's province (or Provence) but this is Sisley's delicate brushwork. Glasgow Art Galleries in Kelvingrove Park, across from which I live, has a Sisley landscape. Monsieur et Madame Sisley were painted by Renoir.
As Ursula says, shallots are of the onion family. Their skins have a beautiful colour. Spring onions, shallots too, are a must with any summer salad.
When in Spain Hemingway liked spring onions on bread and a glass of beer.
My Pa grew caw's lettuce and radishes in the garden. He thought the radish didn't have much flavour but liked it with ham salad.
If you are ever in Glasgovia I shall stand you and Tasker a Calvados, Yorky. I'm in Le Book. The Rue Regent Moray. I shall counter your Voltairean invective with Blaise Pascal the crypto-Jansenist. *Man is a reed, but a thinking reed.*
De Gaulle said he was a believer because of history and personal experience. Like the onion we are wondrously made of many layers. And this is All Souls Day.
Yes many layers indeed. Peel away my skin and you will find blood vessels pumping above the muscle and the bone but peel away the things I say and you will find layers of memory and the random events and experiences that underpin every human life. We are all deliciously different. It is hard to know your onions isn't it?Delete
Yep, it's hard to know your onions. And not always easy to spot a bad onion, humanly speaking.ReplyDelete
Dostoyevsky said that when he was in prison he learned to trust a man by asking himself: Do I like his laugh? I was conned by a beautiful Spanish lady with whom I once had a fling. Now I think about it, she had a cold laugh, no music in it.
A "fling"? Do you mean you danced a fandango with her like Freddie Mercury? Or perhaps it was a highland fling amidst the blooming heather.Delete
I LOVE onions and leeks, but unfortunately they don't like me, particularly since my stomach op four years ago. It's annoying as there is no real substitute. Every recipe seems to come with chillies now too. Also a no-no for me. :(ReplyDelete
I just went back to your blog to read about the cruel co-incidence of your father's untimely death and the operation to remove an unwelcome mass from inside your own body. I know that this is not the stomach-op to which you were referring in this comment but I just wanted you to know that I have read about that earlier time and how it brought tears to my eyes - without the assistance of chopped onions!Delete
Awwww, bless you, YPDelete
Fred Astaire is the preferred role model not the tragic Mr. Mercury. Someone saw Astaire enter the MGM Commissary. He had just finished smoking a cigarette, and he ground the stub on the floor with his rotating heel. A dancer in his every bone !ReplyDelete
I'll get up with a lady and dance the slow foxtrot at a wedding, but I feel awkward. Small men like Astaire dance well. So do strong men like Gene Kelly.
John O'Hara, one of my favourite writers, was a burly man and danced well, though I doubt he danced at Capote's masked ball. I associate O'Hara with big band, because he knew all the songs and all the songwriters. I see on YouTube there's a John O'Hara Society.
John O'Hara was also a minor musical celebrity in the Yorkshire pop scene back in the nineteen seventies. His changing band was always called The Playboys. He was a taciturn man in private but he made a decent living from live gigs - charging premium fees.Delete
Now that would make a novel, O'Hara and the Yorkshire pop scene !Delete
I have a wee book somewhere, Manchester during Punk, with grainy photos of pubs and clubs printed on-page. The text came in handy at a school reunion in January, when the prettiest girl in my class, now a grandmother, told me she wished she had got into Punk.
We shared a taxi going home. I said, *Do you realise tonight is the first time we have ever spoken?*
Now that last line definitely does belong in a novel! Intriguing.Delete
If it belongs in a novel, you shall have to write it, Sir.Delete
Nothing more foolish than an old guy in love. The Past seemed so present that night. I think about the old school and those 1960s days a fair bit.
I purchased every season they did of *The Brothers* in DVD because it reminds me of the early 1970s. Only watched about half. Great acting but the BBC sets were poor.
Nostalgia can be both a blessing and a terrible curse.Delete
Agree with you about leeks. Interesting the are far more popular on the east of the pond than on the west.ReplyDelete
Leek and potato soup tomorrow, me thinks.
I hope your roof hasn't sprung a leek Traveller. Add some cream!Delete
I love onions but sadly they don't love me back. They give me terrible heartburn, the little devils.ReplyDelete
You are not supposed to eat them like apples JayCee!Delete
Interesting. There are many different kinds of onions and a gardener like me really doesn't know what to grow. My favorite onions are the spanish white. I like a raw slice of onion on some sandwiches.ReplyDelete
There are many different varieties of onion but most of us just eat the common commercial onions that are sold in supermarkets. The onion has a reputation as a potent aphrodisiac and has been referenced in many classic Hindu texts on the art of making love. In ancient Greece onions were commonly used as an aphrodisiac remedy, while in the days of the Egyptians Pharaohs celibate priests were forbidden to eat onions because of the potential effects on their libido. Even in France, it was once a custom for newlyweds to be served onion soup on the morning after their wedding night. Don't tell The Micro Manager about this!Delete
Leeks grow wild here and we love them. And onions. And garlic. And chiles.ReplyDelete
Are you living in The Garden of Eden Debby?Delete
Leeks are my favourite vegetable, Debby. You mean they grow WILD like wild strawberries and wild orchids?Delete
Dafydd ap Gwilym (the Welsh Chaucer) should have written a poem about wild leeks since they became the symbol of Wales.
Cnwd da iawn, cnawd dianaf,
O'r ddaear hen a ddaw'r haf,
Good crops, unblemished in their flesh,
in Summer come from the old earth.
Translation by Rachel Bromwich.
My maternal family were onion lovers of a high order. My father disliked the things. My brother and I, who have taken after one or other of our parents in so many things, are united in our love of all things onion.ReplyDelete
Even the Lancashire and England cricketer Graham Onions?Delete
BEEP! (or should that be BURP?) I always thought you seemed to be constantly crying because of our comments.ReplyDelete
No. It was just the onions Sir Tarker.Delete
Definitely a must-have ingredient in most dishes. Where I'm from, there's an onion called a Vidalia that's allegedly so sweet you can eat it like an apple. I've never done it, but I've heard it's possible. (Vidalia is a town in Georgia.)ReplyDelete
So you have been fooling us all - not a Floridian after all but a peach munching Georgian!Delete
No. The perks grow in a nearby swamp. The onions Garlic and chiles are.garden crops. I am also a fan of horseradish.ReplyDelete
Creamy horseradish with roast beef is a must!Delete
And I see once again that I have fallen victim to auto correct. That should read leeks, and yes, they grow wild.Delete
It's not really a meal for me if there isn't a least one onion in it.ReplyDelete
Do you grow onions at The Full Moon Ranch in Lloyd?Delete
Sometimes but I've never had too much luck with them. Perhaps the soil here? I have a friend who grows shallots by the bushel though. I did well with some of them once but they were so small that it was hardly worth the peeling. Fortunately for me, they grow the sweet Vidalia onions just north of here. They are magnificent.Delete
Most things I cook start out with onions and garlic in the pan. A world without onions, what would be the point?ReplyDelete
I would rather have Trump than no onions.Delete
Caramelized onions are the best thing ever! Except when I'm in a hurry and can't wait, and then lovely fried onions will do just fine!ReplyDelete
There are several different outcomes when w fry onions aren't there Margie? Long Live The Onion!Delete
I cannot imagine cooking without onions!ReplyDelete
It would be a very sad world.Delete
Late to the party, but like several here have written, I love leeks, shallots, spring onions. Actually, I can hardly think of any vegetable I do not love, or at least like. As for garlic, even just calling to mind the scent of chopped garlic frying in olive oil (for instance, to make pasta aglio-olio) is enough to make the mouth water.ReplyDelete
I hereby appoint you General Secretary of The Onion Party!Delete
Ursula's talk of pureed onion reminds me of one of the most amazing dishes I've ever eaten. It was in a cafe in Bowral, fluffy gorgeous gnocci sitting in a pool of buttery onion puree (it had a fancy name that I don't remember) There were herbs and mushrooms as well. Unbelievably yummy.ReplyDelete
I think I could manage without onions for a bit if it allowed us to get rid of the orange man
I could give up blogging and beer for a week to get rid of that great pillock. Your simple gnocci dish sounds delightful.Delete
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